The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon

*Warning: this post contains spoilers.*

I finished The Scottish Prisoner last night and it’s definitely my favorite in the Lord John series. I’m going to forego a lengthy summary of the book and instead focus on the biggest impressions it had on me.

In a nutshell: it’s 1760 and Lord John is obligated to complete a task asked of him by an army comrade on his deathbed. LJ involves his brother, Hal, who then decides to involve (or rather, use) Jamie (still being held prisoner at Helwater); thus setting up the reunion of LJ and Jamie and their subsequent journey to Ireland in which they must work together to catch the bad guy and mend their own tattered relationship along the way.

While this book is actually quite sad and nothing swoon-worthy happens (which usually does when Jamie Fraser is involved), I ultimately found it to be perfectly paced, simultaneously heartwarming and heart wrenching, and above all, a treasure trove of answers to the myriad of questions surrounding Jamie’s time at Helwater.

Peat bog in Ireland

On the surface, it may seem like a fortuitous dalliance or a random snapshot into the past, but to those of us who are fully invested in the characters, it is a very important revelation of what got those characters where they are today (or, er, in 1781…) and I would say that this book is the most important – regarding character development – of all the Lord John books. Scottish Prisoner is required reading if you want to be in the Outlander fan club!

Jamie Fraser and Lord John Grey are two of my favorite characters (ever). I actually love these men. DG knew exactly what she was doing by devoting an entire novel to them…I daresay she couldn’t go wrong. Jamie and LJ are like golden retrievers: tried and true, an all-around classic. While there may be a few cliques or stereotypes surrounding them, you can’t go wrong with this breed because you’ll always have a loyal, overall good dog (who is pretty to look at) at the end of the day.

I was dying to know what happened after that infamous scene in Brotherhood of the Blade and the niggling thought of how the heck did they ever get past that? was ALWAYS floating around in the back of my mind. Therefore, I am so grateful to finally have an explanation, even though I am still amazed that Jamie did get past it. (Most. Awkward. Situation. Ever.)

This book gave me even more respect for Jamie. The expression “be the bigger man” kept popping into my head because Jamie was always doing just that. He had so much sadness weighing on him and the rawness of his longing for Claire, even after 14 years, was truly gut-wrenching. The fact that he was able to keep his head up and carry on despite the degradation to his name and character (even going so far as to help those who unjustly looked down upon him), further proved that he is a true gentleman.

One scene that I found particularly moving was when Lord John and Lord Dunsany went for a leisurely ride, towards the end of the book. Dunsany describes how the other grooms don’t make things easy for Jamie and that he keeps to himself. Things have never been easy for Jamie, but he stands strong and perseveres. But it was his relationship with William that I found most heartbreaking. He’s been removed from his family, lost his wife and child (without even laying eyes on her), lost his title and rightful authority, and on top of all this, he is forced to watch his only son (the only thing he has left in his life) from a distance and always through a veil of secrecy. And yet he cherishes the small moments and forgoes any chance of freedom to continue that shard of a relationship.

I came away with mixed emotions regarding Lord John’s position in relation to Jamie. While Jamie has the power to make him weak in the knees, LJ is still his master and (by the end of this book) holds authority over his only son as well. In the final pages, when LJ finally realizes that Jamie is in fact, William’s father, I almost got the impression that he happily saw it as another way of lording over the man. But I’m not positive of that, because I can see it many ways: it gives him an excuse to see Jamie (which he was always looking for), and even further, a lifelong connection to him. Not to mention the fact that if he were to give William the best upbringing and education possible (which we actually know to be the case), then Jamie would forever be in debt to LJ for doing what he could not. On the other hand, LJ loves Jamie and cares for him deeply, and would see in William an opportunity to show Jamie how much he loves him, since he can’t actually (physically)show him, which he would very much like to do (don’t we all). As you can see, I’ve not made up my mind on the matter just yet, but Lord John is a very complicated man, which is of course, why I love him ;)

Ruins on Inchaleraun Island, Ireland

Another storyline that I found very enlightening was that of Isobel Dunsany. I have always wondered about her marriage to Lord John, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that this book sheds a little light on the subject. After carrying on in a decidedly snotty and childlike manner, she experienced a very cruel and unfortunate lesson on the importance of choosing an honorable man. Luckily, it was Jamie to the rescue, but I have a feeling that Lord John’s role in comforting her and his vow to keep her secret (especially considering that this followed relatively soon after their poignant scene in Brotherhood) probably resulted in her seeing LJ from a new perspective.

In the end, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and deep down feel like it was “for the fans,” if that makes any sense. It’s kind of crazy to think that I’m saying that about a book that doesn’t have Claire in it (!), but…so many answers! I love answers! Even if you haven’t read the other Lord John books, you really must read this one.

Interesting link: a Sassenach reflects on Scottish language

I stumbled upon this today and it made me smile, so I thought I’d share. I especially like the part about “juice” and “ginger” in reference to pop. Where I’m from in Tennessee, we use the term “coke” to refer to any generic carbonated beverage. I’ll ask for a coke, which is then followed with “what kind?”

http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2011/11/reflections-of-a-scot-down-south/

Scottish bar stool for kilt wearers (completely unrelated to aforementioned post)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I hope you have a wonderful day filled with excessive eating and gratuitous overindulgence ;) I have quite a bit to be thankful for this year, including my amazing friend Jessica who so kindly sent us “Thanksgiving in a box” since we don’t get to be with family this year. Big hugs to everyone!!

We love our Jessica!

Chris Hemsworth as Jamie Fraser?

For quite some time now, I’ve been getting lots and lots of comments and e-mails from people who feel strongly that Chris Hemsworth (from this summer’s Thor) should play Jamie Fraser in the Outlander movie. I heard about Thor for almost a year prior to its release because of a coworker who has a lifelong obsession with the comic; and after the movie came out, I heard all about how (both he and) his wife were dumbstruck by Mr. Hemsworth’s incredible physique. And last month when Jessica came up for a visit, she proudly declared that she had a genius casting idea for Jamie. Yep, it was Chris. (She was shocked to discover that she wasn’t the first to suggest this.)

I had every intention of seeing the movie and ogling over potential Jamie Fraser material, but for whatever reason, it just never happened. I ended up doing some half-arsed google image searches for “Chris Hemsworth in Thor” and I never found any pictures that impressed me. He definitely has a nice body, but it seemed a little too bulky to fit my mental ideal of Jamie, and I didn’t think his face was particularly handsome. And I wasn’t digging the bleached blonde hair.

Finally, just a few days ago, I watched Thor. By the end of the film, I had admittedly warmed up to him, but I was still pretty “meh” about it all. That having been said…(and before you Hemsworth fans start typing up the hate mail…) I discovered something today that has turned me around. (I know, I know, that was fast!) I stumbled upon the official trailer for the upcoming Snow White and the Huntsman movie – which looks very intriguing – but more to the point of this post, it shows Chris Hemsworth as the Huntsman. And he looks good. Good enough to be Jamie. There, I said it! My husband is making fun of me at this very moment, but I am excited.

The simple change in hair color makes his face look so much less…rough. And switch out the superhero cape for some rugged, medieval-inspired clothes, and I’m pretty much convinced. I think the transition to kilt would be seamless.

Since I have yet to figure out how to post a video, here is the link to the movie trailer. And here are some pics. What do you think?! Are you proud of me for finally seeing the light?! ;)

 

Update on Richie

I am thrilled to report that Richie is doing great so far. He was moved out of the ICU on Saturday and he’s been up and walking around ever since. I worry that he’s moving too fast, but the doctors are extremely pleased. The whole experience has been surreal thus far, and we know there will inevitably be bumps along the road, but I can only hope that he continues to improve at the current pace. Thank you all so much for the amazing support and words of encouragement!

Happy Halloween!

I hope everyone has had a happy Halloween! I took these pics a few weeks ago and wish I could’ve gotten them up sooner…better late than never though, right?

Levi loved his spider costume…

Whereas Ruby refused to cooperate (as ususal)…

We got the call

It’s actually happening, Richie is currently in surgery to receive his new lungs. It’s going to be a long 12 hours…please keep us in your thoughts and prayers to see him safely through.

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My life for the past 3 months

Ah, it feels good to be back in my cozy little corner of the interwebs, even if it’s only for a fleeting moment. I don’t know if I have any blog followers left after 3 months of MIA, but for those that have hung around, I feel like I should let you know what’s going on in my life right now.

My husband has Cystic Fibrosis. Looking back on my posts of 2011, there are a lot of little comments about how things weren’t going so well for us or that my hubs was sick a lot, and yet somehow his declining health managed to sneak up on both of us. CF patients have to undergo regular IV antibiotic treatments (for Richie this meant usually 1-2 per year) as a sort of “tune-up,” but starting in February of this year, he was needing IV treatments on an almost monthly basis. He was very ill in May and we were concerned that he wouldn’t be well enough to travel to Costa Rica, but he managed to get healthy for 2 weeks (long enough for travel) and that was probably the only time he’s actually been healthy in the past 8 months.

Things took a turn for the worst in August when he was hospitalized and diagnosed with “end stage Cystic Fibrosis” at the age of 30. Basically this means that he only has one option of treatment left, which is a double lung transplant. After he was released from the hospital, he went through a gruelling 2 week evaluation process to determine if he was eligible to be listed for new lungs. He managed to survive the bombardment of stressful and invasive tests to learn that he then had to have his wisdom teeth removed before being listed. We then went through that surgery (and the subsequent challenges) to learn of even more obstacles that would prohibit him from being listed.

Long story short, he was officially listed last Monday, but his kidney function started to decline on Wednesday and he is now back in the hospital. No word yet on whether or not this will impact his status on the waiting list. Needless to say, things have been crazy, hectic, frustrating, stressful, SAD, and generally overwhelming, especially since I am still working full-time in addition to my role as his primary caretaker.

I am tossing around the idea of starting a blog about his experiences. It would be both a way to keep family and friends updated as well as a resource or connection for those who may be in a similar situation. (There is a thriving community of CF bloggers that we discovered after getting the transplant diagnosis. We learned so much that the doctors didn’t tell us and I also like the idea of being able to help others in the future.) On the other hand, I obviously haven’t had time (or the mental capacity) to maintain this blog, so I find the prospect of a second one somewhat daunting. I don’t have a smart phone, so blogging on the go is not really an option right now. I will let you know if it pans out.

I am not abandoning Blue Moon Magnolia, I love it dearly and hope to find some time in the very near future to post again. I planned to come back at the start of the month and revive my “Month of the Pumpkin Challenge,” since Richie and I started it together last year and took great pleasure in it, but alas, life has not been so generous as to allow me the time.

Blogging has taught me that the internet has a remarkable way of bringing together people with seemingly random interests or rare shared experiences. If by cosmic coincidence, any of you have CF, have a loved one with CF, or have had experience with double lung transplants, I would love to hear any advice or words of wisdom. If you feel like sharing, please send me an e-mail (bluemoonmagnolia@gmail.com) or just leave a comment.

Thanks for listening.

Scottish Cookery, Harry Potter, and Peppermint Humbugs

I have been super busy with a lot of unfun crap for the past month and a half that is really cutting into my reading time. I’ve been bummed that I haven’t had time to read or cook or sew or craft or enjoy the summer weather (as much as one can enjoy 99 degree temperatures…) or basically do anything that I used to do for pleasure. Thus, I attempted to get my weekend off to a good start by taking an early morning trip to the library to just wander around. I do this occasionally and I have stumbled upon some fantastic books this way, plus, I just think it’s fun (huge nerd, I know). On this particular trip, I discovered the cookbooks. I came home with 3, including The Home Book of Scottish Cookery by Aileen King and Fiona Dunnett. It’s from 1967 and says funny things like “The fashion for afternoon tea, introduced during the fifteenth century, spurred on the Scottish housewife to develop her skills with the girdle and oven,”  but I was intrigued by some of the recipes, and of course, one can never tire of Scottish references ;)  

Now, fast forward to Saturday night when I was exhausted from a day of intensely hot yard work (that included being simultaneously swarmed by mosquitos and chased by a cicada killer wasp while mowing the yard…) and I just wanted a light, quick, fun book to read before bed. I went through the old TBR stack and found nothing to satisfy me, so hubs suggested Harry Potter. (On the long drive home from Jessica’s wedding, we had a conversation about how I haven’t read any of his favorite novels, even though he’s read many of mine [excluding Outlander, however, which he still vows never to touch]. His list includes The Lord of the Rings series, The Game of Thrones series, and the Harry Potter series.)

I started reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. There was a particular description in Chapter 5 that caught my eye…“Hagrid’s coat seemed to be made of nothing but pockets – bunches of keys, slug pellets, balls of string, peppermint humbugs, teabags… ” PEPPERMINT HUMBUGS! I had just seen that recipe in The Home Book of Scottish Cookery! I took this as a sign that I had to make Humbugs that weekend.

My extreme enthusiasm did not last, however. Silly me thought that I could whip these puppies up in the hour I had between supper and “True Blood.” Long story short, they took FOREVER to make and they ultimately made me miss more than half of TB. (This is actually a really big deal because Eric has amnesia…I’ve been waiting over 3 long years to see amnesiac Eric…plus, he was drunk and naked in the lake…). They didn’t turn out as pretty as I would’ve liked, since I was running back and forth between rooms to catch as many Eric parts as I could, but they are pretty tasty and could be a very cool treat for a Harry Potter fan if you have the time to make them properly. Since we’re in the midst of HP mania again, I figured someone out there would enjoy the recipe…

Humbugs

  • 1 lb. demerara sugar
  • 1 1/2 oz (3 tbsp) butter
  • 1 dsp. syrup (dsp. stands for “dessert spoon” and is equivalent to 2 tsp.)
  • 1 dsp. treacle
  • 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1/4 pint water (16 oz.)
  • 3 drops oil of peppermint

Put the water and sugar into a pan and dissolve slowly. Add the cream of tartar, syrup, and treacle and the butter in wafer-like slices. Stir till boiling and remove spoon. Brush down sides if necessary. Boil to the crack stage (i.e. 290 degrees). Remove from heat and allow bubbles to subside and a thin skin to form. Oil a marble slab or strong enamel tray thoroughly and pour the mixture onto it. Add oil of peppermint. Oil the hands well and when cool enough to handle, pull the toffee until smooth and light in color and beginning to stiffen. Pull to a long strip and cut in 1/2 inch pieces with oiled scissors. Store in jar with tight-fitting lid.

It takes a surprisingly long time for it to come up to 290 degrees.

Terrible picture, but rather tasty little treats :)